Research studies

Power in the land of Islam: the religious and the political

Prepared by the researcher  –  Hassane Yacoubi – Researcher in Political sciences and Human rights (PhD). – Abdelmalek Assadi University, Tangier Morocco

Source – Democratic Arab Center


Islam is a religion and the Qur’an is a book of faith. These references are instruments that delimit the analysis of politics in the land of Islam. However, there is a distinction to be made between the fundamental principles of politics in Islam and the political-historical experience of Muslims.

The first person to exercise power in the Muslim community was the Prophet. His influence on  office and position is indelible. After his death, the first major political event was the choice of his successor. The practice of the Prophet and his “well-guided” successors entrenched the culture of consultation in the community. Obedience was conditioned by respect for the will of the Ummah.

The interpretation of the religious frame of reference was made against the backdrop of tragic events surrounding the government. This has pushed theologians to theorize about the paradigm of absolute obedience. However, in the context of the religious injunction to condemn the blameworthy and to order the proper, other theologians have defended the right of the Ummah to resistance or even to armed resistance.


Islam is a religion and the Qur’an is a book of faith. Our approach will be to look for evidence in the religious frame of reference that validates or invalidates what is being done, or was done in the past, and what has shaped political practice and culture in the land of Islam.

The main focus will be on two key paradigms of political thought and practice in the land of Islam, namely “Ata’a” obedience and “Ash’oura” consultation. It will simply be a question of an objective reading that differs from the reading of both orientalists and some Muslim scholars.

The image of power emerging in the land of Islam is not consistent with the one that has been portrayed by some scholars who see “Eastern despotism” as a progeny of Muslim belief and religion.  Thus, for David de Santillana[1]« Islam is the state of God ;it is the commandment of God who watches over his people. God alone invests the princes and God alone challenges them to command and power »[2].

This description comes from what Edward Said in his book “Orientalism” calls the Western imagination of the East. Indeed, the East is « an idea that has a history and tradition of thought, imagery and vocabulary that have given it reality and presence in the West and for the West ».[3]

The referentials are instruments that delimit the analysis of politics in the land of Islam because, in our opinion, the political history of Muslims is not the history of religion. It is the will to implement the general principles contained in the Qur’anand the Sunna (practice of the Prophet).

However, we must be aware that not everything that has been achieved in the political field in the land of Islam faithfully transcribes these principles. This leads us to distinguish between the founding principles of politics in Islam and the political-historical experience of Muslims.

This is what Maxime Rodinson seems to have understood when he says that « the spread, in the world where the Muslim religion is in a dominant position, of authoritarian regimes and tyranny that are more or less bloodthirsty and torturous, does not come from the message of the Prophet in its various versions. It stems from the same causes as in the non-Muslim third world countries ».[4]

In this article, we will analyze the reaction of the Prophet’s Companions after his death, and the way in which they dealt with the problem of his succession. The choice of this moment in the history of Muslims to understand the relationship between the political and the religious in Muslim political thought is dictated by several factors:

– First of all, the Qur’an was revealed to them (the Companions) in the first place in a pure Arabic language that no one else could understand better than they did;

– The life of the Prophet, for his Companions, is not a story that was told to them; it was a story that they lived with all its details;

– In any organization, no matter how primitive it is, a hierarchy must be set up in order to manage it. The Prophet was at the head of this organization and he had people he could rely on. So, his Companions assimilated both the organization and the hierarchy;

– The Prophet’s Companions were put to the test during the Mekkoise and Medina period. They all chose Islam and faith over fortune and social position. They knew that they were going to alienate all the Arab tribes. However, they accepted to defend the Prophet and the religion. That is to say, this period can be described as that of clairvoyance, sincerity and authenticity. And as Al Jabiri said « the role of the creed in the formation of Arab political thought in this phase must be understood in this embryo of the Muslim community which was a “spiritual community”. This means that the only thing that united these members to each other was the belief in God and his Messenger ».[5]

The conceptualization of the politics theory among Muslims is no other than the history of the interpretation of sacred texts against the backdrop of political discord.

The Muslim conception of politics between divinity and secularism.

Islam is a revealed religion. Therefore, the sacred and divine character of the content of the message of Islam leaves both the scholar and the layman with an ambiguity as to the line between the temporal and the timeless.

Another ambiguity lies in the fact that the first person to exercise power in the Muslim community was the Prophet. His status as both a leader of the community and Messenger of God affected the understanding of Muslims, theologians and plebeians as to the relationship between the political and the religious in the political structure of the community of believers. According to Mohammed Amara, Muslim political thought was influenced by other civilizations known for their tyranny, such as Pharaonic Egypt, Persia and Rome.[6]

“State” and “khilafat”: between the divine and the secular

A controversy that has triggered off the debate between the main factions of Islam, the Sunnis, the Shi’ites and the Kharijites, is the foundation of the organisation “State” and its main incarnation “Al Imamahhh” or the Commander of the Faithful.  Some scholars claim that the coming of the Prophet to Madinah in the year 612 inaugurated the creation of the state[7].  Here, the paradigm of the state is used in its very simple sense. It refers to an organizational structure because there is a controversy among other scholars about the name to be given to the political form that Muslims have established in Madinah.

The Shi’ites believes that God and the Prophet made “Al Imamah” and the State one of the founding principles of faith. So, they decided on the theocratic nature of power. Conversely, all variants of the Sunni school assert that the state and “Al Imamah” is a social necessity for the community. In fact, its establishment was a pact referred to as Al bay’, meaning allegiance to the rulers.

Ibn Taymia, one of the greatest theologians of Islam, states that the form of the political organization of the Muslim community is neither a pillar of faith (Al Imane) nor that of benevolence (Al Ihsane).[8]

So, to what extent does this reinforce the secular character of politics in Islam? This can be a source of joy to the laity who see in this affirmation the obligation to dissociate the political and the religious in the land of Islam, following the example of what is being done in the West. However, this is not the case.

Muslim theologians have developed a fundamental rule in the ordering of the compulsory and the optional in Islam. Accordingly, any compulsory act that cannot be performed without the performance of another becomes compulsory by affiliation.

Therefore, the form of the structure of the Muslim community is not defined in the Qur’an, which removes any divine character from this structure and from the people who are responsible for managing the affairs of the community. On the contrary, it has imposed obligations on them. Without the existence of a structure, it would be impossible for them to fulfill these obligations.[9]

 Therefore, no form of organization is defined, but it is necessary to have a structure that ensures the implementation of the obligations that arise from the recommendations contained in the Qur’an or the Sunnah (of the Prophet).

Since the dawn of Islam and after the creation of the first structure that brought together the Muslim community in Medinah, this structure has always identified itself with the position of the one who succeeded the Prophet in the management of the community’s affairs. After the Prophet’s death, a consensus was reached among his Companions on the need to appoint a successor to him.

The first successor, “Caliph” of the Prophet, was Abu Bakr Assediq. He was co-opted by the Prophet’s Companions. In his “investiture” speech, Abu Bakr defined the origin of his power and its limits, and excluded any divine character about it. As emphasized in his speech: « O people, I have been chosen (by the Prophet’s Companions) and I am not the best among you…obey me if I obey God and his Prophet, and if I disobey them do not obey me ».[10]

Abu Bakr had a deep understanding of the message of Islam and the founding principles of community management as enshrined in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. This enabled him to draw a line between the political and the divine.

In this speech, Abu Bakr asserted that he was chosen by the Companions of the Prophet and not by God. Therefore, neither his person nor his status is under the anointing of sacredness. Secondly, the consequence of this first assertion is that Muslims have a right to oversee his acts.

Obedience (Ata’a) and consultation (Ashou’ra)

Obedience is a key concept in understanding the exercise of power and its evolution in the land of Islam. Both the ruler and the governed are obliged to obey God and his Prophet. Indeed, obedience shown to the people who manage the affairs of the community is a religious obligation. God says in the Qur’an: “O the believers! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger and those of you who are in command”.[11]

But as defined by Abu Bakr, obedience to the holder of power is conditioned by the application of the principles contained in the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah. Even if the holder of power was the Prophet’s successor, he was accountable to the community. Abu Bakr called on Muslims to control his actions by saying: « …if I do things well, help me, if I behave badly, straighten me out »[12].

Abu Bakr’s understanding of the nature of power and its exercise derives from his understanding of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah. With regard to obedience, all Muslim theologians refer to verse 59 of the An-Nisaa Sourat. In this verse, God affirms the obligation to obey those who are responsible for managing the affairs of the community. However, there is a nuance to be made regarding the obedience due to the Prophet as well as to his successors.

The Prophet’s Companions were educated to obey him when it came to revelation. In this sense, God says in the Holy Qur’an, “It does not belong to a Believer once Allah and His Messenger have decided on something to still have a choice in the way they act. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, has certainly gone astray, of a manifest error.”[13]

When it comes to a decision made by the Prophet on the basis of a revelation, Muslims have no choice, but to obey. Because in this decision, the Prophet is only an intermediary between God and the community.

However, in situations where there was no revelation, the consultation was the rule when it came to managing the affairs of the community in times of both peace and war. God, in addressing His Prophet, warned him that « …if you were rough, hard-hearted, they would have fled from you. So forgive them, and beg forgiveness for them. And consult them in matters of business »[14].  Some Muslim theologians have understood from this verse that if God commanded His Messenger to consult Muslims in the management of their affairs, it is to set an example. Anyone in charge of governing had to abide by the Prophet’s practice, which lies in consulting the community.

Several cases are reported in the biography of the Prophet that attest to the existence of the practice of consultation, one of which took place when he consulted his Companions before they fought their first battle. (the Battle of Badr).

So, when the decision was made to fight the enemy, the Prophet asked the “Mohajirins” and “Al Ansar” if they agreed to participate in that battle[15].  Then, the Prophet chose to set up a camp in an area that gave the enemy the opportunity to have access to water. One of his Companions asked him if  the choice of location was a revelation or just a tactic of war, the Prophet then replied that it was only tactics, so “Alhobab Ibn Almondir” suggested that he change the location so that the enemy would not have access to water, to which the Prophet agreed[16].

The first “Caliph” Abu Bakr knew that he was not supported by the Revelation, so in managing the affairs of the community, he had to consult with Muslims and report to them, which was confirmed in his first speech. So, from the Umayyad dynasty onwards, the basis of governance as established by the Prophet and the first four “Caliphs», was to change.

The exegesis of politics

As for the Believers, God enumerates their qualities as those « who respond to the call of their Lord, perform Salat, consult among themselves about their affairs »[17].  Thus, consultation is a fundamental principle of Muslim community life. The first consultation among Muslims after the death of the Prophet was the choice of his successor.

The choice of the Prophet’s successor, while not a religious matter, is a matter of what is common to the interests of the people[18]. Therefore, there is no sanctity for the one who occupies this position to manage the affairs of the Muslim community.

The Choice of the Ruler

The death of the Prophet put an end to the union of the temporal and the timeless as well as to the sacredness of the function of the one who manages the affairs of the community. However, the influence of the Prophet on this function and position is indelible.

If the Prophet had appointed someone to succeed him, that person would have kept the seal of sacredness. Because, in this case, either he was supported by the Revelation and no one in this case would contradict him (and this is the position of the Shi’ites), or he acted for the good of the community. And as for cases where there was no revelation, he would consult the community. However, as confirmed by Al Qortobi[19]“if there was a text of the Prophet in any of the Mohajirins or Al Ansar which designates someone in particular to succeed him, there would have been no dispute or discussion on this subject. And this is the position of the majority of Sunni theologians”[20].

Therefore, the first great political event, after the Prophet’s death, was the choice of his successor. Indeed, ” with his death, a political problem arose, as to who would succeed him and who would be in charge of managing the affairs of the Ummah? What are the conditions of succession? How does it materialize? The duration of the mandate? “[21]. The Prophet’s Companions agreed, after hard and long discussions, on appointing Abou Bakr as the Prophet’s successor. The consensus of the Prophet’s Companions on Abu Bakr was the first political decision taken by Muslims in the Prophet’s absence.

Abu Bakr remained in power for a period of two short, but eventful years the war of apostasy[22] was the defining event in his governance.

Omar Ibn Al Khatab was the successor of Abu Bakr and the second “Caliph”. The procedure for the succession of Abu Bakr was relatively different from that of his predecessor. Sensing his death, Abou Bakr began consultations with the Prophet’s Companions. As a result, Omar was unanimously chosen as his successor.

Omar’s experience was longer than that of Abu Bakr. During his ten-year tenure, a structure akin to the form of a state began to crystallize. Omar is presented as the founder of the administrative structure in the land of Islam. He created services called the Diwan;an idea he borrowed from the Persian Empire. These services responded to the needs of the society: the judiciary, the army, the police, the governorate, the treasury, the post office, and so on.

Othmane Ibn Afan, the third of the well-guided Caliphs, was chosen from six of the Prophet’s great Compagnions. They were proposed by the dying Caliph, Omar. These Companions were unanimously supported by the Muslim community.

During Othman’s term of office, the principles of governance began to change. He began to distance himself from the leadership of his two predecessors, Abu Bakr and Omar. Some of the Prophet’s Companions expressed their disagreement with him. This led to crisis of governance which ended with the assassination of Caliph Othman, following protests from people from Egypt, the Levant and Iraq because he refused to step down from the post of “Caliph”.

The fourth of the Caliphs was Ali Ibn Abi Talib. During his term of office he spent his time reunifying the territories following revolts and claims in the Levant and Egypt. He was assassinated by the Kaharijites. The first two Caliphs, Abu Bakr and Omar, conducted business in a stable and peaceful climate, which enabled them to leave their mark on the history and political practice of Muslims.

The succession of the Umayyad family to the “well-guided Caliphs” changed the way Muslims chose those who assumed the responsibility of governing. Instead of being chosen by the “Ulemas” those who are called “AHl AL hal Wa AL Aqd” literally meaning those who do and undo things, the position of “Caliph” would now be monopolized by one family and the title would be passed down .

The influence of the tragic events around the way of managing the affairs of the community does not only concern the process of choosing the “Caliph”, as it will also  find its way into the effort to theorize political thought among Muslims. Some theologians will limit themselves to an approach that is not normative, but rather descriptive.

 Muslims, having lived through tragic and painful events, wanted to avoid the reproduction of these events. The solution was to ensure the transmission of power in such a way that the Muslim community remained united and avoided conflicts and violence. It is in this perspective Muawiya Ibn Abi Sufiane, the first “Caliph” of the Umayyad dynasty decided to make his son Yazid heir and force Muslims to pledge allegiance to him.

Consultation and obedience in the shadow of religious and politics

At the beginning of the 20th century, Ali Abderraziq, a graduate of Al Azhar University in Egypt, did a critical analysis of the legacy of Muslim political thought. Although we do not agree with all his conclusions he, nevertheless, isolated two variables that dominate the political field in the land of Islam. Indeed, he summed up politics in Islam in a ” set of moral precepts of a very general scope, which can be structured around two fundamental principles: the principle of obedience (atâ’a, due by all those who are under the guardianship of any authority be it parental, social or political) and the principle of consultation (Ashou’ra, due by all those who are in charge of the muslim communiy”[23].

These two variables have a religious connotation and are found in the Qur’an. Their use in the political field served to legitimize the seizure of power, after the parenthesis of the “well-guided Caliphs”.

The reign of the ‘Umayyad’ dynasty, which lasted from 661 to 750 (41-132 of the Hijir) inaugurated the break with « the legitimacy on which governance in Islam since Abu Bakr was based, the legitimacy of consultation, and sought its legitimacy in the dogma of destiny »[24].  In order to convince Muslims to obey and give allegiance to the one who holds power in the absence of consultation, it is argued that it is the will of God that is carried out. If Muslims used to participate in the realization of God’s will by choosing those who govern from Muawiya, they are only observing God’s will.

The Abbasid dynasty was established from 750 to 1258. Unlike the Umayyads, they claimed to have descended from the lineage of the Prophet’s uncle “Al Abbas Ibn Abd Al Mottalib”.

In order to ensure the success of their revolt, the Abbasids ” could not rely on the ideology of the destiny of the Umayyads, because amongs them were leaders who opposed and fought against this ideology.”[25]

Neverdless, shortly after their successful takeover, the Abbasids established a regime whose “Caliph” claimed to be the direct representative of God on earth. Thus, the second “Caliph” Abbasid “Abu Jaafar Al Mansour” in one of his speeches addressed the community saying: ” O people, I am only the power of God on his earth, I govern you with his benevolence and his support and I am the guardian of his money, I dispose of it according to His will and I give it with His agreement “.[26]

The influence of civilizations before Islam was undeniable. Indeed, ” the organization of the empire was inspired by the traditions of conquered empires , and especially by the Byzantine administration, from which it inherited the structures and profited from its skilled cadres service “.[27]

Although there was a change of dynasty, the philosophy of power remained the same. The holder of power identified himself as a ” delegate of God so that people will not hold him accountable, because attesting to the temporal nature of power means that it is delegated by the Ummah, and the reappraisal of accounts is his own right “[28].

Islamic political thought has been influenced by the change in the way of governing. Thus, Muslim jurisconsults, unable to redress the drift in governance as established by the Prophet and the first four Caliphs, split into two streams. The first stream theorized about the principles of governance; it ” gave a kind of religious legitimacy, and political thought developed after Al Mawardi through a process of concessions and an abundance of conditions until they finally recognized the legitimacy of the one who takes power by force “[29]. Authoritarianism and tyranny in the land of Islam developed under the benevolent gaze of certain theologians.

This current gives priority to the stability of the community over its right to choose who should govern. In this sense, Ibn Hajar said: « there is unanimity among jurisconsults on the obligation to obey the one who takes power by force and support him in the war effort, so showing obedience to bloodshed calms the plebeians »[30].  These theologians elaborated a principle that became a rule: obedience is due to he who has strength.[31]

The second current remained faithful to the dogma of consultation and the choice of the community. It sees the obligation to obey the usurpers of power as an exception. The rule is to respect the will of the Ummah and consult with them. Thus, “the pact that allegiance produces is only an act of delegation, the Ummah is the source of power, and it is the Ummah who invests the ruler to manage the affairs of state “.[32]

Allegiance is a contract between two parties: the Ummah and the ruler. It is conditional on the fulfillment of the terms of the contract. If the ruler does not abide by these terms, the Ummah has the right to remove him by using force.

Contestation in Muslim Political Thought: Theory of Disobedience.

Muslims have drawn the legitimacy of disobedience from the religious frame of reference, both in the Qur’an and the Sunna. This frame of reference has been questioned more or less objectively by the Chi’ites, the Kharijites and even by the Sunnis. This has created two contradictory theories that can be grouped under the terms of absolute obedience and conditioned disobedience.

This dichotomy, concerning obedience, is a topical one. What is called “political Islam” with its two variants, violent and political, draws on the religious frame of reference to consolidate their claims and the legitimacy of their actions.

The Paradigms of Right and Wrong

The first Caliphs continued the policy of consultation established by the Prophet. They continued to treat the members of the community on an equal footing and the wealth of the Ummah was distributed equitably. In their inaugural speeches, the “well-guided Caliphs” kept reminding the community of these principles and of its duty to control whoever holds power.

 In this sense, Abu Bakr announced to the members of the community that the weak is powerful until he gives him back his rights; and the powerful, is weak until he is accountable for his actions.[33]

The same attitude was adopted by Omar. Thus, in his first address to the Ummah he said: ” I have been chosen to manage your affairs…I pledge not to impose on you or take your property except to the extent permitted, and I pledge to spend it only for you…help me  by ordering the good and blaming the evil “.[34]

It is worth noting that although there was a shift in the philosophy of power in favour of alienating the will of the “Ummah”, there was still some resistance during the darkest periods in the political history of Muslims. Armed resistance, as Al Chohristani notes, “the greatest discord in the “Ummah” has been around “Al Imamah” (the Commander of the Faithful); no sword has been wielded in the name of religion as it has been wielded for it”.[35]

Indeed, during the reign of the Umayyad dynasty, there were armed revolts against the Caliphs, symbols of power. All the revolts assumed the responsibility of re-establishing the true commandery. One of these revolts, the Abbasids, brought the Umayyad dynasty to an end.

Abundant literature was produced by Muslims on the subject of the legitimacy, or otherwise, of disobeying the usurpers of power. Disobedience has been practiced since the dawn of discord with the assassination of the third Othman Caliph.

It is admitted by all religious Islamic tendencies that condemning the blameworthy and ordering decent is a religious injunction. Both the Qur’an and the Sunna invite Believers to adopt this behaviour. Thus, God, in addressing the community, recommends: “Let a community come forth from you that calls for the good, enjoins the proper, and forbids the blameful. For it will be they who will succeed”.[36]

In another verse the address is not directed to the community, but to individuals. Among the qualities that God loves in Believers are those of ordering the good and condemning the blameful. “They (the Believers) are those who repent, worship, praise, walk the earth (or fast), bow down, prostrate themselves, command the good and forbid the blame, and keep the Laws of Allah, and give good news to the believers. “[37]

The Prophet urged the Believers not to be passive before the blameworthy and the unjust: “Whoever among you who sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot then with his tongue; and if he cannot then with his heart; and this is the weakest level of faith “.[38]  Also, the Prophet in one narrative “Hadith” elevated the behavior of condemning the blameworthy to the highest level by saying that ” the greatest jihad is a righteous word before a tyrant “.[39]

Rejecting injustice is a central value in Islam. Mouslim tells us in an authentic hadith that “a man came to the Prophet and asked him, “O messenger of God, what if someone came to take my property? He answered; do not give it to him; what if he wants to fight me? He said; fight him; what if he kills me? Thou art a martyr; what if I kill him? He will go to hell “.[40]

The practice of the Prophet and his successors refers to consultation with the “Ummah” and respect for the opinion of the community. As soon as the Muslims felt some kind of deviation from this practice, they rebelled against the third Caliph, Othmane. This insurrection resulted in the assassination of the latter and the outbreak of a “civil war”. The assassination of Ali, the fourth of the Caliphs, put an end to this bloody episode with the establishment of the Umayyad dynasty.

Here are the general principles that frame the duty of protest which, for some, the obligation of disobedience derives from. However, if disobedience is admitted, it is subject to certain conditions.

The Paradigms of Rebellion and Quietism 

Absolute obedience revolves around a lax interpretation of the referentials. For some theologians, including part of the Hadith School, disobedience is forbidden. Abu Al Hassan Al Ach’ari, one of the Sunni doctrine, argues that this current prohibits disobedience even if “one kills men and takes children as slaves, the Imam can be just or unjust, it is not within our power to reject him even if he is lecherous “.[41]

This trend is based on verses and hadiths of the Prophet that spoke of the behaviour to be adopted at the time of sedition. The Prophet commanded Muslims to avoid getting involved in seditions: ” many seditions will be taking place…one man said, ‘Messenger of Allah, what shall I do? The Prophet replied: Take your sword and break it against a rock and save yourself if you can “.[42]

Authentic hadiths have been reported that formally prohibit disobedience that leads to rebellion. A hadith reported by one of the Prophet’s Companions, Hodayfa Ibn Al Yaman, tells us that the Prophet informed him that after him there will be Imams who will not follow his path and will deviate from his Sunnah. Hodayfa asked the Prophet what attitude to adopt, and he replied: “listen and obey the commander, even if you are flogged and your money is taken; listen and obey”.[43]

Another stream of theologians, using the injunction to order the proper and condemn the blameworthy, opts for disobedience. There are other hadiths which incite resistance in the face of injustice and which have mentioned above. Apart from that, the divergence appears with regard to the consequences of disobedience. The interpretation given to the Prophet’s hadiths sends the positions to the antipodes.

Ibn Hazm, the great Andalusian theologian, is the leader of those who see that the hadiths that speak of obedience must be interpreted in the light of the verses of the Qur’an. Thus, according to Ibn Hazm, “The Ummah is in agreement over the obligation of ordering the good and condemning evil;  and the majority of Sunnis, Mo’tazilites, Kharijites and Zaydites believe that wielding swords to do so is a must”.[44]

God says in the Holy Qur’an: “Help one another in doing good deeds and piety and do not help one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah, for Allah is indeed harsh in punishment!”[45]  If a Muslim does not resist oppression, he/she contributes to the corruption of society, as he/ she allows tyrants to do their work, and thus becomes their accomplice.

The disobedience that leads to rebellion is subject to two conditions:

– The ability and certainty to defeat the tyrant in place.

– The situation must not get any worse than when it is under the tyrant.

During the tremor of the Arab Spring, its paradigms were brought back onto the scene of debate in the Arab-Muslim world. Should we support the protests in the streets, or is it an act of sedition?

Here again, the positions were at the opposite end of the spectrum. Religious officials supported the dictatorships in the repression of protests. However, the International Union of Muslim Ulemas[46] supported the protesters and defended the right to freedom of expression.

In the aftermath of the events of the Arab Spring, one of the members of the union, which is currently its president since 2018, the Moroccan Ahmed Arrissouni had written a small book entitled “Jurisprudence of the Revolution: Revision of Muslim Political Jurisprudence”. Arrissouni refutes refuting the argument of those who equate rightfull with sedition: ” there is no sedition in what one is invited to do by religion, like claiming legitimate rights, condemning the blameworthy, fighting injustice; sedition is oppressing people, committing the blameworthy, usurping rights, and keeping quiet about this behavior and letting it accumulate “.[47]


Muslim political thought was built around the institution of the Commander of the Faithful “Al Imamahh”. The paradigms linked to this institution and listed by Muslim theologians are obedience and consultation. The practice of the Prophet’s successors, “the well-guided Caliphs” was faithful to what he bequeathed as principles of community management.

The political community, in the time of the Prophet and the “Well-Guided Caliphs”, was framed by the rules of the creed, and had two levels: the commanders/theologians on the one hand and the people/combatants on the other.  The collapse of the management of the community’s affairs after the “Well-Guided Caliphs” plunged the community into sedition.

The reign of Muawiya marked the triumph of pure politics whose power was based not on consultation, but on obedience. The community was forced to choose between violence and defeat or the recognition of the strongest that guarantees peace and unity. And so it has opted for stability and peace.

This tradition has been perpetuated even in theory. Muslim theologians have transposed rules from the religious to the political field in order to adapt to the new reality. Thus, according to theologians “necessity allows the illicit” or “avoiding corruption takes precedence over the search for the good”. In political terms, one can accept the reign of one who has not been chosen by the community to live in peace.

This drift has influenced the political history of Muslims until today. The lack of democracy in Muslim countries is partly due to this vision which sees the ruler who rules as an extension of this period with all its emotional charge. Muslims have lived through the state of exception throughout their history.

All the revolts, since the Abbasids, have used the same political symbols against a religious background to defeat their opponents. Once installed, these revolts reproduce the same fallen system.

The absence of political space, as a place of mediation in favour of an instrumentalized religious space leaves no chance for compromise. And just as in religion, there is only one truth, so in politics, opposition to the holder of power is seen as an opposition to God.

Originally the exercise of political power was based on consultation, because the holder of power was chosen did not plan to keep it in line. This allowed him to accept criticism and even demand it. But, with the hereditary transmission of power, all that is allowed is acquiescence.

The Arab Spring has put back on the table the discord of centuries ago about the exercise of power in the land of Islam. The same arguments have been overturned on both sides of the border.

Today, political Islam presents itself as the repository of a tradition of contestation perpetuated by certain theologians. Modern society is proving the protesters right. The culture of human rights destroys the paradigm of absolute obedience.


  • Al Chohristani Mohammed, religions and cults, Nanacer Cultural Iinstitution, Beyrout, 1981. (arabic)
  • Al Jabiri Mohammed Abid, Religion, State and the application of Shari’a, Center for Arab Unity Studies, 1996. (arabic)
  • Amara Mohammed, The Islamic State between Secularism and Religious Power, Dar Achorouq, 1988. (arabic)
  • An Nabhani Taqiye Addine, the Islamic State, Dar Al Oumma, 2002, p. 36-37.  Mohammed Salim Al Awa, the political system of the Islamic State, Al Maktab AL Misri Al Hadith, 11th ed. Cairo, 1979. (arabic)
  • Arrissouni Ahmed, jurisprudence of the revolution: revision of Muslim political jurisprudence, Dar Al Kalima, Cairo, 2nd 2014. (arabic)
  • Ferjani Mohamed Chérif, the Politic and Religion in the Islamic Field, 2005, 2-213-62490-9. ffhalshs-01232429. (online)
  • Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani, Fath Al Bari, volume 7, Dar Arissala Al Alamia, 2013. (arabic)
  • Ibn Katir, Albidaya Wa Al Nihaya, Dar Arrayyan, volume 6, 1st Cairo, 1988. (arabic)
  • Ibn khaldoun, Almoqadima, Dar Alkotob Alilmiya, Beyrout, 2007. (arabic)
  • Ibn Taymia, Minhaj Al Sunna Al Nabawiya, volume 1, Cairo, 1962. (arabic)
  • Ihsane Abdelmonaim Abdelhadi Samara, Islam political system, Dar Yafa, Oman, 2000. (arabic)
  • Imara Sayel, the reign of the usurper of power by force in Muslim doctrine, Revue Université Annajah, V 30, Naplouse, 2016. (arabic)
  • Jamal Al Hossaini Abou Faraha, disobedience to the ruler in Muslim political thought, Civilisation Arab Centre, (arabic)
  • Rodinson Maxime, Islam: Politics and Beliefs, Fayard, 199. (frensh)

[1]David de Santilla is a Portuguese Jew who lived in Tunisia (1855-1931), he was a jurist and Arabist, he is classified among the orientalists.

[2]David de Santillana, droit et société, cité par Mohammed Amara, L’État Islamique entre la laïcité et  le pouvoir religieux, Dar Achorouq, 1988, p. 10.

[3]Edward Said, Orientalism, Vintage Books, New York, 1979, p.5.

[4]Maxime Rodinson, the Islam: Politics and Belief, Fayard, 1993, p.111.

[5] Mohammed Abid Al Jabiri, Arab political thought, the center for Arab unity stadies, 1990, p. 60

[6]Mohammed Amara, The Islamic State between secularism and religious power, Dar Achorouq, 1988, p. 10.

[7]Taqiye Addine Annabhani, the Islamic State, Dar Al Oumma, 2002, p.  36-37. Mohammed Salim Al Awa, the political system of the Islamic State, Al Maktab AL Misri Al Hadith, 11th  Éd. Cairo, 1979, p. 44.

[8]IbnTaymia, Minhaj al SunnaAl Nabawiya, volume 1, Cairo, 1962, p. 72

[9]Idem, p. 209.

[10]Ibn Katir, Albidaya wa alnihaya, Dar  Arrayyan, volume 6, 1st ed. Cairo, 1988, p 305-306..

[11] Holy Qur’an, Sourat An-Nisaa, verse 59.

[12]Ibn Katir, Op. Cit. p. 305-306.

[13]Holy Qur’an, Sourat An-Nisaa, verse 36.

[14]Holy Qur’an, Sourat Al Imran, verse 159.

[15]Ibn Katir, Op. Cit, Volume 3, p. 162.

[16] Idem, p. 167.

[17]Holy Qur’an, Sourat Ash-Shoura, verse 38.

[18]Ibn khaldoun, Almoqadima, Dar Alkotob Alilmiya, Beyrout, 2007, p. 168.

[19]The dean of interpreters of the Koran, he lived in Andalusia in the city of Cordoba in the 12th century.

[20]Al Qortbi, cit by Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani, Fath Al Bari, volume 7,  Dar arissala Al Alamia, 2013, p. 32.

[21]Ihsane Abdelmonaim Abdelhadi Samara, the political system in Islam, Dar Yafa, Oman, 2000, p. 34-35.

[22]These godly tribes have disavowed Islam and others have refused to give Zakat to the central authority. Both Abu Bakr fought against them.

[23] Abdou Filali Ansary, Islam and Secular Power, Confluences Méditerranée – n° 32  winter 1999-2000, p. 45.

[24]Mohammed Abid Al Jabiri, Religion, State and the Application of Shari’a, Centre for Arab Unity Studies, 1996, p. 82.

[25] Idem, p. 84.

[26] Ibid, p. 84.

[27] Mohamed Sheriff Ferjani. The political and the religious in the Islamic field. 2005, (online).

[28]Mohammed Amara, Op. Cit, p. 18-19.

[29]Mohammed Abid Al Jabiri, Op. Cit, p. 86.

[30]Ibn Hajar, Op. Cit, V 13, p. 7.

[31]Mohammed Alich, Manh Al Jalil Ala Mokhtasar Cheikh Sayid Khlil, Dar Alfikr Beyrout, 1988, p. 196.

[32] Sayel Amara, the reign of the usurper of power by force in Muslim doctrine, Annajah University Review, V 30, Nablus, 2016, p. 411.

[33] Ali Mohammed Assallabi, biography of Abu Bakr, Dar Ibn Kathir, 2nd Ed. 2009, p 126.

[34]Ali Mohammed Assallabi, biography of Omar, Iqra institution, 2005, pp. 80-81.

[35]Mohammed Al Chohristani, religions and cults, Nacer cultural institution, Beyrout, 1981, p. 6.

[36] Holy Qur’an, Sourat Al Imran, verse 104.

[37] Holy Qur’an, Sourat A-Tawbah, verse 112.

[38] Reported by Mouslim, No. 49. Cit by Abou Bakr Ibn Arabi, Ahkam Al Qur’an, volume 1, Dar Al Kotob Al Ilmiya, 2003 p. 227.

[39] Reported by Abou Daoud in his sounan no. 4344.

[40] Reported by Mouslim, No. 163.

[41] Abu al Hassan Al Ach’ari, The Doctrines of the Islamists, Modern Library, Volume 2, 1990, p. 140. Ahmed Arrissouni, Jurisprudence of the Revolution: Revision of Muslim Political Jurisprudence, Dar Al Kalima, Cairo, 2nd ed. 2014, p. 37.

[42] Jamal Al Hossaini Abu Faraha, Disobedience to the ruler in Muslim political thought, Centre of Arab Civilization, 2004, p. 61.

[43]Reported by Mouslim, no 245.

[44] Ibn Hazm, religions and cultes, cit by Sayel Amara, Op. Cit, p. 437.

[45] Holy Quran, Sourat Al-Maida, verse 2.

[46] The Union is an unofficial and independent body of Muslim scholars.

[47] Ahmed Arrissouni, Op. Cit, p. 38.

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